Tennessee has something that not every program across the country has. The Volunteers have a backup quarterback with experience. While Hendon Hooker retains his status as Tennessee’s starting quarterback heading into the 2022 season, having a backup like Joe Milton III, a quarterback with more than 200 collegiate passing attempts to his name, is something that Tennessee quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle treasures.
As Halzle alluded to earlier this week, having a backup quarterback with experience is an aspect that is rapidly disappearing with the use of the transfer portal.
After losing the starting job and watching Hendon Hooker’s magnificent season from the sidelines, the former Michigan quarterback could have left Tennessee for a place that offered a starting opportunity. However, as the story goes, Milton didn’t leave Tennessee.
Instead of leaving, Milton decided to solidify his game in Knoxville.
“We’ve worked all offseason on touch throws across the middle and pressing our vertical run game,” Halzle said about Milton’s improvement. “He has done a great job doing that. He is touching up balls all over the field.”
More from RTI: Hendon Hooker Mic’d Up During First Week of Tennessee Camp
It wasn’t hard to see that Milton had a cannon of an arm during his time as Tennessee’s starter last season. And that cannon of an arm does have a variety of beneficial uses. However, for Milton, the Tennessee staff worked on adding the finesse aspect to his game this offseason.
“We all know he has the absolute howitzer of an arm, so we have worked on having him touch up the ball, work windows, and working that aspect of his game,” Halzle said. “We know he has the other shot in his bag already.”
Adding in the finesse element to an already powerful arm isn’t as easy as just running some routes under the summer sun and picking it up within a few days. Instead, it’s about tough, yet honest conversations that lead to specific ways of practicing, which leads to building new muscle memory.
“One, it’s having that conversation with him, that we all understand you have this talent,” Halzle said about the process with Milton. “Now, we need to truly work on something that’s not a positive. A lot of people like to work on what they’re good at, because it feels good when you’re working on it. We said, ‘Let’s miss some throws in the spring. Let’s miss some throws on routes on air, working on our touch.’ He has absolutely dialed that in. It’s been a huge part of his game. We have been working drills. We have several drills we work to shop windows and touch-up balls and all that type of stuff. He has really dug into that. He hasn’t fought it whatsoever. It’s going to be a huge improvement to his game.”
Halzle also credits the relationship between Joe Milton and Hendon Hooker as a crucial reason for the connectivity in the quarterback’s room. Despite losing the starting job to Hooker, Milton says that Hooker’s success only made him want to get better. Which he why he ended up staying in Knoxville and putting in the work rather than leaving the program for greener pastures.
“It was tough, but it’s also like, that’s my guy,” Milton said about watching Hooker from the sidelines last season. “His success is my success because we go through the same thing. You can’t necessarily say that because he’s out there playing by himself and with the team, but I’m not mad about it. Because I mean, you can’t be mad at another person’s success. Once you do that, your success will get knocked down. And I don’t have anything against him, so there’s no point in me being mad.”